Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where 'doing more with less' is the norm

Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer | Monday, August 29, 2011

THE recent Jamaica Teachers' Association Annual Conference was interesting. A militant outgoing JTA President Nadine Molloy-Young objected to the term "failing schools" while a grim-faced Education Minister Andrew Holness listened intently. The minister eventually had the last word, figuratively turning the Ministry's pockets inside out and declaring, "We have to do more with less."
We have wonderful teachers, but many of them may not understand the sacrifices made by their fellow Jamaicans to pay those taxes which fund the national budget. There are people in small businesses working 50 weeks per year, averaging 60 hours per week. They get no duty concessions, so they buy second-hand cars. They learn new technology overnight, glad for any gadget that could help them to do "more with less". When it comes to performance-related pay, they must submit detailed reports of activities and results along with invoices.
These brave entrepreneurs must prepare budgets which may have several iterations before final agreements are reached. Collections can be arduous - we know a pest-control outfit that ended up subsidising their customer after making two trips to Montego Bay to get hard-earned payment.
They had better file returns and pay taxes on time so that Tax Compliance Certificates (TCC) are up-to-date and they can get approval from the National Contracts Commission (NCC) to be able to tender for jobs. To stay on a productivity curve, they must have activity plans, board meetings, staff meetings, and strong financial management. When a business must present its results to a tough-talking board of directors, managers know it is a case of "put up or shut up".
Imagine then, when these businesses squeeze to hire a high school graduate with all sorts of teacher and pastor recommendations, only to discover that the individual can barely speak, much less write passable English. Teachers, you may not want to use the term "failing schools" but even a nicer name will not hide the fact that university lecturers are having to teach their students the fundamentals of grammar.
Nadine Molloy-Young is herself a role model, a winner of the Principal of the Year, impressing the panel of judges with her track record of leadership of the Buff Bay High School. She has every right to be defensive of and loyal to her fellow teachers, but she should call out the underachievers among them who are giving her noble profession a bad name.
Drama at a Tripoli hotel
We tracked the dramatic overthrow of the Moammar Gadhafi regime on CNN and could see the mounting tension in their senior correspondent Matthew Chance, even as he continued to report bravely on developments. He was being held with other members of the media by army personnel in Tripoli's Hotel Rixos.
Chance hinted at their precarious plight on Saturday, August 20 when he heard the reports of the successful takeover of Tripoli by the rebels, and disclosed that he and his colleagues were not being allowed to leave the hotel. During five tense days, the journalists realised that a number of frightening scenarios could develop: they could be held hostage, used as human shields, summarily executed.
The brilliant Jomana Karadsheh, a Jordanian CNN producer based in Baghdad struck up a conversation with one of the soldiers, saying how she longed to see her loved ones, and wished to leave the hotel. The 50-year-old soldier's eyes filled with tears as he related to her and an Arabic-speaking CNN cameraman, how concerned he was about his own family caught up in the rebellion.She was able to convince him to release her media colleagues.
In a moving account on the CNN website, we see an aggressor being coaxed into the rediscovery of his humanity:
"Karadsheh and the cameraman reminded him that all the senior officials - and now even his young comrades - had abandoned him.
It was time to give up. 'Slowly, he started to change.'
The cameraman slowly stripped the soldier and gunman of their weapons. Now unarmed, the man looked at the journalists and said, "You can go now."
Unusual week for Washington DC
It was an unusual week for Washington DC, where our relatives who always felt safe from such tropical occurrences as earthquakes and hurricanes experienced them both. The long-awaited opening of the Martin Luther King Jr Monument scheduled for yesterday to mark the 48th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech, was postponed because of Hurricane Irene. At the time of writing this column, the warnings were grave: extensive flooding as far north as New York City. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

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